The Coldicott Veterinary Clinic Logo
55 Barton Street, Tewkesbury, Glos. GL20 5PX   .   01684 292177 (24hr)   .   coldicottvets@btconnect.com


Rabbits

Rabbits make loving pets, but remember they are social animals so are happier kept with a cagemate.

Housing

Your rabbit’s house should be safe and secure; and allow enough room for them to run and jump about, as well as stand upright on their back legs. A traditional hutch often does not give rabbits enough room to express their natural behaviour so consider this when buying a house.  Wherever possible, they should have access to a run, ideally around 8x6’.

Rabbits may be kept indoors or outdoors, but bear in mind they like chewing and digging and should be allowed space to do this.  Rabbits can be easily litter trained, making them clean indoor pets.  Allow them access to shaded areas to keep cool as they cannot sweat, it should be between 15-21C in the coolest part.

In the house use straw, hay, shavings or shredded paper. Avoid dusty straw/hay and sawdust as it can irritate their eyes.  Clean out regularly and keep it dry.  Include toys for stimulation.


Nutrition

Nutrition is very important to keep your rabbit healthy, especially their teeth and gut.

Rabbits should mainly eat hay; about 70% of the diet, approx. a ball of hay the size of your rabbit per day; and it helps to keep them busy.  This can be supplemented with pellet feed; up to 25g/kg/day, replaced daily; and green leafy foods in moderation.

Avoid mixed cereal feeds as they tend to pick out the tastier bits and can lead to an unbalanced diet; & sugary foods as this can upset their gut.

Also avoid sudden changes to their diet; instead make any changes gradually over a period of several weeks.

Water should be available at all times, in a bowl and/or bottle, and replaced daily.


Vaccination

There are 2 diseases we vaccinate rabbits against. Vaccinations are annually and can be started from 5 weeks old. It is also best to avoid contact with any wild rabbits to minimise the risk of infection.

Myxomatosis is a highly infectious, often fatal disease transmitted by fleas or direct contact. It causes swelling around the eyes, blindness, fever and lethargy. Treatment is only supportive and survival is rare in non-vaccinated rabbits.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD/VHD) is a highly contagious, nearly always fatal disease transmitted by direct contact or contamination. It presents as liver and kidney failure, fever, breathing difficulties and convulsions.

There are 2 vaccines available; one covers against myxomatosis & RHD1, one against RHD2.  Since these 2 vaccines cannot be given together and are both annually, we suggest seeing you every 6 months to allow for regular health checks.


Parasites

Rabbits can pick up a variety of parasites.  The most significant is E. caniculi, which infects the nervous system causing a head tilt and odd behaviour. It can be life threatening and is transmitted via urine and contaminated feed, so ensure good hygiene.

Worms can cause weight loss, weakened immune system and diarrhoea, so you should worm your rabbit 4 times a year to prevent them. Rabbits are prone to roundworm and tapeworm, both of which may be transmitted to humans (especially children), again good hygiene is essential.

They can also catch fleas, lice and mites, which live on the body, so keep an eye out for any of these.  Preventative treatments are available as a spot-on.

Flystrike is a potentially fatal disease where flies lay eggs that hatch into maggots and feed off the rabbit.  You should carefully monitor your rabbit especially in warm weather and there are preventative treatments available.


Dental Care

Rabbits have incisors at front that you can see, and cheek teeth at back. Their teeth continue to grow so should be worn down when they eat to avoid problems.  Since it is difficult to see the cheek teeth, your rabbit should be brought in for an annual tooth check, and may require a dental if they are not wearing down properly.

Signs such as dribbling, wet chin, weight loss, dirty bottom, weepy eyes or being off their food can all be signs of dental problems.


Neutering

Male & female rabbits should be separated by 3 months old.  Neutering is recommended as it prevents pregnancy in mixed groups, minimises aggression (especially males) and prevents commonly seen ovarian cysts in females.

Males can be neutered as soon as their testicles descend at around 10 weeks old. Females are usually done around 5 months old due to their size, but if you have a mixed pair, plan to do them both around 4 months old.

After neutering, they are prone to obesity so be careful not to overfeed and increase exercise.